Beyond the blah: Tips for crafting compelling year-in-review stories

Love them or hate them, end-of-year wrap-up and review stories are here to stay. While some may find them repetitive and unoriginal, these stories serve an important purpose in helping us reflect on the past year and gain perspective on the events that have shaped our lives. They are an essential record of history, documenting the major events, trends and individuals that have defined the year.

In addition, year-in-review stories allow news outlets to showcase their creativity, and to engage with audiences on old, but important topics in fresh and innovative ways. They provide a canvas for experimentation, allowing journalists to break free from the traditional confines of news reporting and explore new forms of storytelling.

These 12 time-tested tips can be used to guide your creation of compelling year-end stories that offer fresh insights into past events, helping your audience to connect the dots from yesterday’s headlines to tomorrow’s news.

12 reporting pathways for end-of-year stories

  1. Provide context: End-of-year wrap-up stories often focus on recounting the year’s events in isolation, failing to connect them to the broader context and their potential impact on the future. So ask yourself: How do the year’s events fit into the larger context of history? Do they contribute to the evolution of broader issues or trends? What are the cause-and-effect relationships between this year’s events and other developments, both past and present? 
  1. Explore unconventional angles: Move beyond overused narratives and clichés. Explore lesser-known stories that still hold importance. What stories have been overlooked or underreported in the mainstream media this year? What are the perspectives that have been excluded from the dominant narrative? What are the unconventional sources of information that can provide a different perspective on the year’s events? 
  1. Seek expert perspectives: Don’t limit yourself to rehashing events. Seek out the voices of those who have been directly involved in shaping the year’s narrative. Use these expert perspectives to contextualise the year’s events, providing a deeper understanding of their underlying causes, motivations and implications.
  1. Analyse data and trends: Harness the power of data to vividly illustrate the year’s major developments. Use statistical trends to track the ebb and flow of events, showcasing patterns and progressions that would otherwise remain obscured. Identify emerging patterns, shifts and unexpected changes that have shaped the year’s trajectory.
  1. Highlight community impact: Showcase stories that resonate with your audience on a personal level. Interview those who have experienced first-hand the impact of policies, witnessed the consequences of crises or demonstrated resilience amidst adversity. Translate complex issues and abstract concepts into relatable human stories. Inspire your audience with stories of resilience and offer a glimmer of hope for the year ahead.
  1. Connect global and local events: Demonstrate how global issues have trickled down to local communities or how local events are part of broader global shifts. Highlight the interconnectedness of the world and the impact of global forces on local realities.
  1. Cross-beat analysis: Explore how events within your beat intersect with or impact other areas. Showcase how developments in one realm influenced or interacted with others. This cross-disciplinary approach broadens the scope of your story and enriches readers’ understanding of the interconnected nature of societal changes.
  1. Long-term impacts and future considerations: Look beyond the immediate headlines and investigate the long-term implications of the year’s events. Offer insights into what the coming year may hold, based on the current year’s developments.
  1. Use multimedia storytelling: End-of-year wrap-up stories demand more than just written text and winding broadcast features. Weave together a tapestry of visual, auditory and interactive elements that enhance storytelling. For instance, infographics can be useful tools to transform numerical abstractions into visually engaging and easily digestible narratives. Timelines provide a chronological framework for understanding the year’s events. Use videos to complement written narratives, add emotional depth, and engage readers on a sensory level.
  1. Reflect on significant events: What were the most significant, surprising or unexpected events that occurred in your beat or area of coverage this year? Highlight these issues and analyse their implications, showcasing their far-reaching effects.
  1. Use audience interaction: Take advantage of social media, surveys online polls and interactive features to create a dialogue with your audience. Invite people to submit their own stories, photos or videos to contribute to the collective narrative of the year. Incorporate selected responses or viewpoints in your reporting.
  1. Embrace collaboration and cross-platform storytelling: Work with colleagues from different departments or media outlets to expand the scope and impact of your end-of-year wrap-up stories. Share resources, expertise and perspectives to create a comprehensive and multi-faceted narrative of the year.
ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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